Love Actually is often considered to be the definitive modern Christmas movie, but that didn’t stop Rowan Atkinson almost driving Alan Rickman to madness with his small role. Love Actually was released in 2003, and in the two decades since its reputation as a seasonal must-watch has only grown.
Partly, this is down to the festive, heartwarming nature of the story which sees an interconnected web of characters navigating emotionally complex situations, whether it’s: a character having an affair and the fallout of that, a young boy trying to build the courage to ask a girl on a date, or someone falling for their best friend’s wife. These situations all tend to focus on one thing, though, and that’s love.
Despite all that soppiness, one of the main stars in the movie was almost moved to insanity due to Rowan Atkinson’s hijinks. The late Alan Rickman, best known for his time in the Harry Potter movies, shared a famous scene with Atkinson in which Atkin’s character wraps a gift for Rickman’s character.
He does this painfully slowly, taking immense care in the wrapping process. During this, Rickman’s character becomes increasingly exasperated because he is trying to keep the gift a secret. And, it turns out that the real-life Rickman was getting frustrated to.
According to the movie’s director Richard Curtis in a retrospective special about the romance movie (via Variety) Atkinson demanded that he did multiple takes for the scene, and that these could last over ten minutes. Curtis said “Rowan was just taking his time, so he would do eleven-minute takes, [then] he’d say… ‘look, let’s go back and do that, start [again],’ and poor Alan [Rickman] was there all the time going ‘grr, ugh.'”
That genuine frustration felt by Rickman was perfect for the scene, because his character is meant to feel impatient and frustrated too. If you watch the scene again, with the knowledge that Rickman was genuinely annoyed himself, it makes the moment all the more entertaining.